tv BBC News NI Special BBC News July 13, 2017 4:30am-5:01am BST
the next director of the fbi, christopher wray, has promised to pursue justice impartially. under questioning from members of the senate, he said he did not consider the investigation into russian interference in the 2016 election to be a witch hunt, as mr trump has claimed. brazil's former president, luiz ignacio lula da silva, has been sentenced to 9.5 years in prison. he's been found guilty of accepting bribes worth more than a million dollars in the form of a beach apartment. he plans to appeal. he's standing for election again next year. and here in london, the king and queen of spain have attended a state banquet at buckingham palace. earlier king felipe addressed both houses of parliament. he said he was confident the uk and spain could reach agreement over the future of gibraltar. it's time now for hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk with me, zeinab badawi, here in florida,
where my guest is 98—year—old ben ferencz. he is the last surviving prosecutor at the nuremberg nazi trials. he also helped liberate the death camps of europe while serving in the us army. so does he believe that the nuremberg trials have made genocide and other crimes against humanity less likely to be committed in the world today? ben ferencz, welcome to hardtalk. you were born in 1920 in transylvania in central europe.
you moved to the united states with your family when you were a little baby. you really epitomise the american dream, a kind of rags to riches story, because it was discovered that you were highly intelligent and you were put on a fast track to harvard law school. we arrived in america. my parents were young immigrants fleeing persecution and poverty. no money, no skills, no language. and lucky to have some friendly new yorker offer us, my father, who had been trained as a shoemaker, but they didn't need any boots made in new york, there were no cobblers. but the owner of a building offered us the opportunity to sleep in the cellar and my father would be the janitor. that's where we began, and that's where my memory begins, in a high—crime density area known for good reason as hell's kitchen. there was a lot of crime there.
is that what excited your interest in law and pursuing a career in law? it excited my interest in not being on the criminal side, let's put it that way, there was crime all around. i had made up my mind early that i didn't want to be a cowboy and i didn't want to be a fireman and i didn't want to be a crook either, so that pretty much left me to go to law and i've focused on it ever since. after you graduated from harvard law school in 1943, you joined the us military and joined a battalion preparing for the invasion of france. what are your key recollections of that time? i enlisted wherever i could get into the army, i was a private, the lowest rank you could get, assigned to be in the artillery battalion. and in that capacity we landed on the beaches of normandy. france was occupied by the germans. the only way to move the war forward and to get rid of the war was to defeat the germans. i sailed from lands end at the tip
of england across to omaha beach, which was still... had been cleared by the time i got there a bit. but there were many soldiers in american uniform still lying in the sea face down. there were many armoured vehicles still in the water and we had to push on from there into france and defeat them. there was heavy artillery all the way. many battles all the way. and it was only when we got into the german occupied, and germany itself, that we began to encounter possible war crimes. as nazi atrocities were uncovered you were transferred to a newly—created war crimes branch
of the army to gather evidence of nazi brutality and apprehend the war criminals. you entered the death camps, like buchenwald for instance, and you described how you saw scenes from hell. describe to us what you saw. i can describe it vividly because the recollection is very strong in my mind but at the same time you can't understand what it is like because the rational human mind can't quite grasp it. coming into buchenwald for example, dead bodies lying all on the ground, you can't tell if they're dead or alive. skeletons dressed in just rags which had at one time been part of their work uniform with a triangle indicating they were jews, homosexuals, communists or whatever. everybody is running in different directions.
the ss is trying to run out. a scene like a pile of rubbish the size of this room and in it inmates grovelling like rats for a bite of food and picking out garbage and sticking it into their mouths. the smell of foul flesh burning. crematoria with stacks of human bodies looking like bones stacked one on top of the other while they are shovelled into a crematorium and turned into ash and the fat is used for making soap and their ashes are used as fertiliser. the ss is running out, occasionally getting caught and beaten to death by the inmates, that were still able to do anything about it. i wrote somewhere that i had peered into hell. i think hell would be paradise compared to what i saw. are the memories of what you saw still very vivid for you?
yes, i don't like to talk about them much because i have difficulty controlling my own emotions. in 1945 you left the us army, returned to new york and prepared to practise law, but shortly after that you were recruited for the nuremberg war crimes trials, the international military tribunal prosecution against the likes of hermann goring and other leading nazis were already in progress. what was your reaction when you were asked to be part of that process? when the war was over, i came back, along with 10 million other soldiers, looking for a job. i graduated from the harvard law school and i passed the bar but i had no clients of any kind. i was pleased to get a telegram from the pentagon inviting me to come to the pentagon and they wanted to talk to me. i arrived there and they said "dear sir," they had never called me sir before, they wanted me to go
back to germany to help with war crimes trials. i had done that during the war days. the last several months in the war as we occupied portions of germany and france that had been occupied, we ran into examples of crimes of all kinds, the most obvious ones, what we called the allied flyer cases, very little is known about that. flyers were being shot down in german—held territory were almost invariably beaten to death by the german mob. it was part of our first war crimes cases so i had that kind of experience with me when i left the army. i took that back to germany when i agreed with some hesitation to go back to germany and help with trials which would follow the international military tribunal. why did you hesitate?
was it because you didn't want to...? it's a horrible experience for anyone. germany was associated in my mind with atrocity and terrible crimes, i didn't want to go back to germany. this is horror glorified. nothing heroic about it at all. it shows how human beings can be debased in times of war. so you did go back to germany and you scoured nazi offices and archives and trying to find evidence of the nazi atrocities by german doctors, officers, lawyers, judges and generals. it was quite all pervasive, wasn't it, the people that were involved in the atrocities. the united states in particularfelt the international military tribunal trial against hermann goring was just a camera shot of a small sampling, and in order to really understand how a civilised country like germany could commit
and tolerate the kind of atrocities that were committed, you should understand the position that doctors who perform medical experiments, the lawyers and judges that perverted the law, the ss murderers of course that did the killings, the industrialists that were working people to death. all of these were specific groups. so the united states said let us take a sampling from each of these groups to help us understand it. so i went to berlin with a team of about 50 people, scoured through all of the archives, miles of nazi documents, to gather the evidence to cover the broad spectrum of german society, which basically was responsible for the crimes. in previous interviews you described how in gathering witness testimonies you did resort to duress, for instance lining up villagers and threatening to shoot them if they lied. i mean, such methods now would amount to witness harassment of the most extreme order. perhaps it would.
but it's only because the people that make the allegations don't understand what war is about. if i bring a room of 20 people, and this is an actual case, and line them up, and say i want you to all write out exactly what happened, what your role was, what others did, anybody who lies will be shot. "oh, how can you do a thing like you're threatening them with torture!" what am i going to tell them? anybody who lies won't get his patty cake tonight? what do you want me to tell them? please be honest, please confess that you're a murderer, please do that. i don't want to have to threaten you with anything. what are you talking about? there's a war going on. they'd kill you if you could, they were killing some of your buddies before, that's why they're standing there. so what am i going to do?
i didn't shoot them, but i threatened to, and that's the only weapon i had. and if that be torture then call me a torturer. so you became the chief prosecutor for the united states at one case in nuremberg, the einsatzgruppen case. described by the associated press news agency as the biggest murder trial in history. 22 nazi war criminals who were part of these death squads, shooting more than1 million people, most of them civilians. it was quite a responsibility for a young man, you were only 27, to take. and in fact, just before you talk to me about that, i just want to show you, this is you at the nuremberg trials. the leading judge, michael musmanno, pre—recorded in pennsylvania. these are the defendants. 22 defendants. each one charged with mass murder.
all of them pleaded not guilty. no—one ever showed any sign of remorse whatsoever. i remember very well what i said. may it please your honours, it is with sorrow and with hope that we here disclose the murder of over a million innocent and defenceless men, women and children... file: vengeance is not our goal. nor do we seek merely just retribution. we ask this court to affirm, by international penal action, man's right to live in peace and dignity, regardless of his race or creed. the case we present is a plea of humanity to law. that these men who wrote the darkest page in human history, people were murdered because they didn't share the race and colour and the ideology of their executioners. i thought it was horrible then, i think it is horrible now.
and i appealed for the rule of law, which would in future protect people from that type of atrocity. when you look at that picture of you, though — i mean, 27 years of age, chief prosecutor in the nuremberg process. that was an accident, that i was the chief prosecutor. one of my researchers, i had about 50 of them in berlin, came across the daily reports from the front of the special extermination squads, whose job it was to kill, without pity or remorse, every single jewish man, woman and child they could lay their hands on, including the same for gypsies, and any other perceived or suspected opponent of the reich. no such process had been planned. i flew down to nuremberg to talk to the general who was in charge and he said we can't put on this trial now, because of all the lawyers are already assigned. the trial is in progress, the pentagon hasn't approved it, i doubt if they will approve it,
and i have in my hand evidence of mass murder on a scale never before seen in human history. you can't let these guys go. he said, can you do it in addition to your other work? isaid, sure, and i did, and i rested my case in two days. you said you wanted to prosecute the officers. you weren't as interested in the foot soldiers, you wanted to get the educated officers among them. it is very hard for the public today to understand. the special extermination squad, einsatzgruppen, the german word means "action groups. " they were 3,000 men. i selected of these 3,000, all of whom were complicit in mass murder, i selected those based on several factors. first of all, we had to have them in captivity. if you have got the evidence and you haven't got the prisoner, you have got nothing.
i want a list of everybody who was a einsatzgruppen member, from all of our intelligence services, sent down immediately to nuremberg. i went over the list, i picked those of the highest rank, and then checked out their background, from the nazi party records which we captured in berlin. those who had doctor degrees, and had — or generals, they got priorities. i picked out 22, not 21 or 28, because we only had 22 seats in the dock. is that absurd ? of course it is absurd. there were only 22 seats in the dock for the hermann goering trial, so we have a selection. that's all it is. of the 22 who you tried in the einsatzgruppen case, about a dozen were given death sentences, four were actually executed, the others remained in prison, but only for a few years, until an agreement, a deal, was made between the american and german governments,
and they were released. so it wasn't, you can't call it a success, can you, really? it wasn't that formalistic. the political atmosphere had changed. general george patton, who was my commander, made a speech in london to a woman's group before the war was over, in which he said, we have fought the wrong enemy, we should not have been fighting the germans, we should have been fighting the russians, while the war was on. an american general. americans are still being killed in battle, and the russians are being slaughtered. in came the change of political scene in the united states, a conservative group were saying, what are we getting involved in these crimes against the germans? we need the germans. the british were particularly keen about not executing some of the german generals that the british army wanted. so the political pressure was such, together with some feeling of amnesty for humanitarian considerations, they stopped the trials, they released the people who were there, and then began to rehire people like wernher von braun, who knew about rockets,
and some of his deputies, who came to the united states, as they had the new rocket science. so when the trial that you presided over at nuremberg, as chief prosecutor, was hailed as a success, as some did at the time, it can't really be described as that, if some of those who were found guilty were subsequently released. i was of course disappointed, but i never anticipated or tried to dojustice, in the broad sense, of holding every criminal accountable. it would have been a practical impossibility, so i was careful in the selection of having a man in custody, having a high rank, having good education, having absolute proof beyond any doubt of his guilt. i had his report, top secret to his commanders, seeing how many
people were executed. they were not quite accurate, they exaggerated the body count, to show more, how more they killed, and then they said, "it was against our will, superior orders". baloney! was that baloney...? it was absolute baloney. because sometimes, aren't people just obeying orders? they were of course ordered to kill all thejews, but they did it with such enthusiasm, they wanted to brag about how many they killed. you said the lessons of nuremberg for you, you said, "i learned that if we did not devote ourselves to developing effective world law, the same cruel mentality that made the holocaust possible might one day destroy the entire human race". so, today, so many years later, here you are in your 98th year, and you look around you at the world, the conflicts that have happened in recent times, what's your assessment? have we made progress? we have made progress. we have not learned the lesson of nuremberg. we have made progress, i'll come back to it, but first, let me emphasise the fact.
i learned that war makes murderers, mass murderers, out of otherwise decent people, and it applies to all wars, and all nationalities, and i've seen it in all the wars. these are not wild animals, or out for blood, these are patriots, who were trying to do their duty to protect either their religion, or their nationality, or their economic security. these are the three major causes. we have not learned that you cannot kill an ideology with a gun. we still go at it with the same stupid approach of spending all of your assets on building weapons, and more weapons, to kill more people, and depriving people of the things they need to eliminate the fears which they have in their lives. a man who's desperate, because he has nojob and has no money, if the money spent on weapons
could be spent on eliminating the cause of his discontent, he's not going to risk his life and go out and kill people, the way that they do today. so you were very instrumental in the setting up of the international criminal court, which was established by the rome statute in 1998. do you think that has really helped prevent crimes against humanity, war crimes? do you think it's stopped these crimes being committed with impunity? it has helped, but not enough. certainly, the existence of laws prohibiting certain behaviour has some deterrent effect, but we have to bear in mind that, for centuries, we have glorified war—making. ever since david hit goliath in the head with a rock, we have glorified, the parades, the marching. no politician appears without his flags flying on all sides, and the bands going, and marching. and i was a soldier, and they gave me all the battle stars, and they gave me all the decorations and all that stuff.
we've got to reverse those thousands of years of practice, because the world has changed. we're not throwing rocks any more. we're going to kill everybody. from cyberspace we can cut off the electrical grid of any city on the planet. are you all crazy?! you're standing here watching it happen. students don't have money to pay tuition. the refugees have no homes to go to. the old people are dying, because they can't afford the medical care, and you're pouring billions of dollars every day into killing machines?! what in your long life and career have you learned about the nature of evil, and human beings‘s capacity to commit the most unspeakable, horrific acts against their fellow human beings? well, i've learned simply, as it's very obvious, that people in very high places, people of good education and high rank, are quite competent at becoming mass murderers against any group that they think threatens either their nationality or their religion or their economic circumstance. i have seen that.
and these are not crimes committed by devils with horns, these are committed by educated, well—intentioned, patriotic people. but we have to change the hearts and minds of people, so that they recognise it's not cowardice to be ready to compromise, and to be conciliatory and be compassionate in your dealing with people who have other points of view. and i know that it takes courage not to be discouraged, but we have got to have that kind of courage, because it's a tough job, and it will take a long time, and we've got to begin in the cradle. so this re—education of the human spirit and the human mind on a worldwide basis is the task before us, and we are doing it. look at the emancipation, with those limitations, on the black man. look at the emancipation of women. look at the change, the sex approach, a man can marrya man, a man can become a woman. all of these unthinkable things are realities today. 25 years ago they would have said, "you are out of your mind". and i say don't give up. law is always better than war, and that is my firm conviction. no matter if you get a bad decision,
law will always be better than war, which is murderous and terrible. and there are three ways of preventing it, which is one, never give up, two never give up, three... and then i hear the echo from the audience, "never give up". ben ferencz, thank you very much indeed for coming on hardtalk. it's been a pleasure. i hope that you all, don't enjoy it, but think about it, and act on it. thank you.
hello there, good morning. yesterday was a lovely day across large swathes of the united kingdom. after some early rain in the south—east, that soon cleared away, and the sun came out for the afternoon. and it was a fine and sunny day in buttermere in cumbria, thanks to the weather watchers for sending in the pictures. we saw the sunshine through the day yesterday. clear skies overnight, and that will take us on into the morning. with those clear skies it will be chilly in some rural spots. major towns and cities starting in double figures for most, up to 111—15 at the very best. in more rural parts, rural scotland, three degrees, england and wales down to about four or five, so a bit on the chilly side for some. high—pressure is in charge of the weather for the most part through the day today. you will notice this weather front in the north and west, more isobars here, so a bit more of a breeze. the weather front will see cloud and will bring rain to northern ireland, and into western scotland as well.
ahead of that, a lot of fine and dry weather, but not completely dry, because there will be one or two showers around. but i think east anglia and the south—east, increasing cloud in the afternoon, but it is staying dry. temperatures in the low 20s quite widely. there will be a line of showers from the south—west of england into south wales, drifting through the midlands, to the north—east of england. behind that, a lot of dry and bright weather. maybe a shower or two in aberdeenshire. here's that weather front bringing breeze and rain into western scotland and northern ireland as well. 19 degrees the top temperature in belfast. wimbledon continues and it looks like it will be a decent day for it. light winds, there will be sunshine, patchy cloud as well, and temperatures should get into the low 20s. as we go through the evening, our he weather front makes progress southwards and eastwards. that will bring some rain with it, not a great deal. it's mostly overnight rain as well. any lingering rain in the morning in the south—east won't last long,
it will clear away quite quickly. then it is a decent day with a lot of dry weather. it's dry for the most part. 18 in aberdeen, 22 in london. friday night, we start to see rain across scotland, into northern ireland as well. outbreaks of rain further south in england and wales. early rain in the south—east on saturday doesn't last too long. it should clear way. then we have scattered showers out to the west, where it is quite breezy, and the showers will be fairly frequent in western scotland. now, of course, it's the finals weekend, the ladies‘ finals on saturday looking pretty good. temperatures on the rise, humidity too, for the men's final by sunday. so on the weekend it will be cloudy and muggy with humidity on the rise, but some showers will crop up in the north and west of the uk. and it will be quite warm further south. this is bbc news. i'm tim willcox. our top stories: an american in paris. president trump heads for france, claiming he's focused on governing
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